Malaria? Alberta has mosquitoes but they don’t leave parasites behind!


It’s a word I have heard, but I never really spent much time thinking about it.  That is until I began researching Belize (I am tripping there end of August).

I thought Malaria was prevalent only in far away countries like Africa and India, not the Americas.  But I was wrong.  Malaria is also common in South and Central America.

Yikes, I thought, what do I do?  Read on . . .

Malaria is caused by a parasite carried by the Anopheles mosquito; it’s a nasty bug that tends to feed at night, so travelers should try to be neatly tucked into mosquito-proof netting during the hours of dusk through dawn, to avoid getting bitten.

Once contracted, Malaria may not show itself for 1-3 weeks.  Symptoms are flu-like: chills, fever, sweating, and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin). 

While there are pills to help cure Malaria, there are NO vaccines against Malaria.  There are preventative pills, however.  But these drugs come with side effects.  Are anti-malaria drugs the answer?  Not really.  Some people can’t handle the side-effects.  And you can still get malaria even while taking the pills.

The best defense against Malaria is not to get bitten by an infected mosquito in the first place.  That means using plenty of insect repellant spray laden with DEET.  98% strength is unnecessary, and bad for your health.  A repellant with 20-35% DEET will do the trick.  But it’s better to avoid the nighttime hours altogether, get inside, and sleep, well-protected, inside mosquito bednetting.

Will you die from Malaria?  Only if the disease goes unchecked and untreated for a period of time.  And only if you were infected by the right kind of parasite:  Plasmodium falciparum.

A blood test will tell you if you have malaria; and, once it’s determined you have the disease, there are drugs to help you get better. 

Malaria symptoms can recur months or years after the initial attack.  For more information, try the following links:
Malaria Education
. . . and here’s a Ugandan site that really knows about Malaria.  There are some great tips and information here.

Remember the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  I’d rather use that nasty Deep Woods OFF, than be wretchedly sick after a vacation.  Just remember to bathe, get the chemical off your skin BEFORE going to bed.

Sheree Zielke

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